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Judge rules against DOJ in CVS Health and Aetna case

Antitrust and healthcare witnesses for the American Medical Association are scheduled to testify starting Tuesday.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

Federal Judge Richard Leon has ruled against a Department of Justice motion in the CVS Health and Aetna case filed days before hearing testimony from antitrust and healthcare witnesses for the American Medical Association.

The DOJ wanted the judge to amend proceedings so it could have the chance to rebut the AMA witness testimony. No cross examination is being allowed in the hearings scheduled to start Tuesday, June 4, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The American Medical Association had filed a motion opposing the DOJ's request.

In his ruling, handed up late Thursday, Judge Leon said he would not amend his May 13 decision allowing for the testimony.

"The United States' motion is nothing more than a thinly veiled motion to modify the procedures set forth in the Court's May 13, 2019 Memorandum Order," Leon said. "Indeed, the United States does not identify any lack of clarity in the procedures set forth in that Memorandum Order, and it cannot credibly argue that the Tunney Act requires any of the modifications requested in its motion."

WHY THIS MATTERS

The two sides are arguing over the DOJ's settlement agreement that allowed CVS Health and Aetna to merge last year. To satisfy the DOJ's antitrust concerns in the settlement agreement, Aetna divested its Medicare Part D plans to WellCare.

The court cannot overturn the merger. Judge Leon has the authority, under the Tunney Act, to review the settlement agreement only.

The AMA has said it is concerned over the lack of competition in concentrated markets in pharmaceutical benefit management services, health insurance, retail pharmacy, and specialty pharmacy.

TREND

The DOJ approved the $69 billion acquisition of Aetna by CVS last year. The two companies closed on the deal.

The American Medical Association said at the time it was disappointed the DOJ didn't go further by blocking the CVS and Aetna merger.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com